Demoralization In The Awakening

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To demoralize someone is to dishearten or discourage them and cause them to lose hope. Kate Chopin uses words like “depressed” (56), “hopeless” (56) and “despondency” (p115) to describe Edna, the heroine, in The Awakening. Coupling this description with Edna taking her life at the end of the novel and Chopin’s own inferred demoralization, due to the almost universal aversion to The Awakening, the natural conclusion is that it is a work of “great personal demoralization”, (Companion 5) as Michael Levenson states. Levenson suggests most modernist authors and artists paint a bleak picture of their time period because they are demoralized. Although the portrait Chopin paints of female oppression in 1899 is to some degree demoralizing, the…show more content…
Mrs. Pontellier’s soul is shaken, causing a seismic shift in her, but she is not the only one affected as all of the partygoers were moved by Mademoiselle Reisz’s performance. This alludes to Kate Chopin’s desire to inspire her audience in the same manner as she purposely chooses a piece of music by the renowned composer Frederic Chopin. She suggests that art is an important aspect of an awakening as it has the ability to touch the soul. In the next scene Mrs. Pontellier suddenly learns to swim and Chopin describes, “A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul.” (p27). Mrs. Pontellier now fully awake realizes that she has control over body, she has autonomy, and Chopin emphasizes her individuality by referring to her as Edna. Her awakening is important because in 1899, women did not have autonomy; their main purpose was domesticity. The church and patriarchy reined over women who were the property of their husbands and considered inferior to men with no sexual desire. Chopin presents Mr. Pontellier as a perfect specimen of late nineteenth century patriarchy. Some women thrive in this culture as Chopin demonstrates through Mrs. Ratignolle. However, for many women, like Edna this world was suffocating. The natural reaction to this oppression is feminism, but Chopin does not preach feminism in her novel.

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